18 Nov 2014

Malaysia wins second prize at ACL festival 2014 Japan

Malaysia has won second prize at the recent ACL Festival in Japan, with representative Ainolnaim Azizol nearly clinching the top prize for the first time in our nation's history. This is the second time Malaysia's entry has won a prize at the regional festival in a span of four years.

The Kuantan composer's challenging work  Fragments I for trumpet duo was a fine representation of the best of Malaysian contemporary music, with its bold vision and audacious originality.

Ainolnaim's work begins with an interplay of extended sounds from the trumpets from key clicks,  mouthpiece sounds to vocal effects, creating a rhythmic sonic painting of unlikely sounds from the familiar trumpet.

As the piece proceeds the composer goes on to explore spatial effects with the two performers moving to opposite sides of the hall playing sometimes parallel lines, other times bouncing figures between them.


25 Sep 2014

Inheritance: Interview with Ramon P Santos

As contemporary art music goes global, Ramon Pagayon Santos searches the Asian soul
- Off The Edge, April 2007

The Asian composer faces a very special dilemma by nature of his or her profession - the struggle against the dissonances that arise between the inherited traditions of the East and the acquired compositional tools of the West. At the Asia Pacific Festival and Conference 2007, where past met present and the avant-garde met the traditional in meaningful counterpoint, the issue seemed all the more relevant. Whose music were we celebrating? Can we really lay claim to this tradition? 

For Filipino composer, educator and music activist Ramon Pagayon Santos, whose keynote address during the conference centred on these issues, our  

OTE: From what you’ve seen and heard during this festival, where do you think Asian composers are heading? 

Ramon Pagayon Santos: What we’re seeing here is very significant; we share the same goal of creating a new musical environment in Asia [from a very general perspective]. But while we may have commonalities in our formal training [in music composition], the commonality stops there because we come from different cultural environments, with differences in our histories in art, music and so on. Asia is like that. 

Right now, I find something substantial happening. Listening to the concerts [at this festival], it seems that the pieces performed, whether from a traditional music or contemporary/art music standpoint, seem to be undergoing change – there is a kind of cross fertilisation taking place.  

6 Jun 2014

Call for scores: 15 Minutes of Fame

UPDATE: 15 Minutes of Fame - 15 one-minute piano works + 15 one-minute short films

(15 Sep 2014) We have invited composers from Malaysia and ACL to compose a one-minute piano work for the project. The selected pieces will be performed by a Malaysian pianist and will go on to inspire Malaysian film artists to create a one-minute short film to the music soundtrack.

MCC received entries from all over Asia, from Taiwan to New Zealand and beyond, a wonderful kaleidescope of varying musical views on the subject.

Presently the pianists are rehearsing the selected works and filmmakers being engaged to craft their visual responses. The project timeline has been broadened to allow participating collaborators more time to work on the project.

Composers will be updated in time to come over the completion of the short films.

The 15 completed films will be broadcast towards the end of the year or early next year, on various online platforms, and will be made available for further screenings at events and festivals.

The objective of the films is to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change, especially in light of the current water crisis and environmental disaster known as the haze, both of which are related to the man-made forest fires that Malaysia will likely face again this year. There can be no life without water.

Theme: Water + Fire


5 Jun 2014

Zen from the north: Johan Othman's second opera in progress

As the curtain comes down on 2013, composers of Malaysian art music can look back with pride that it has indeed been a fruitful year of activity. Apart from the action-packed ACL festival, and Jessica Cho who is putting together a CD anthology of women Malaysian composers, up north in Penang Johan Othman for example is still busy penning away notes to score after premiering his wind octet in KL with the High Winds Ensemble led by oboist-conductor Joost Flach.

And having just completed music to the play 'The Sandpit' at Penang Performing Arts Centre, he is also waist-deep in his second opera The Killing of Meghnad.

The wind octet heard at KLPac's performing space in Taman Tun last September is enigmatically titled 'He too a simulacrum, that another person was dreaming him', a typically zen response from the soft-spoken composer with a penchant for thinking far outside the box into unknown metaphysical spheres, as evident in his earlier works Ittar and Topeng with their contemplation of creation and enlightenment respectively.

Johan explained that the work for pairs of flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon is based on the line from a short story by Jorge Luis Borges 'The Circular Ruins' that describes how a person may possibly exist as someone else's dream, who in turn is another’s dream in a kind of psychological hall of mirrors.


4 Jun 2014

Malaysian premieres since 1995

Here is a roundup of premieres of Malaysian works at home and abroad. Since the mid-90s Malaysian works have been performed largely abroad, but from the 2000s onwards has increasingly been heard at home as well.

Local works are becoming a part of the country's busy concert schedule, as well as abroad, such as the regular Asian Composers League festivals around the region.

You can peruse scores and recordings of many of these works at MCC's digital library in Petaling Jaya.

October 2018, Matera, Italy
Ainolnaim Azizol
for flute and eletronics

Ainolnaim's work JuliJuli has been announced as one of two winning works selected for the 2nd MA/IN ~ Spaziomusica Commission in Italy.

It was selected from among 291 works from 44 different countries received by the festival organisers.

October 2018, Taiwan
Rayner Naili
Serpihan Mimpi (Fragments of Dream)
for flute and violin

28-year-old Rayner Naili, born in Sabah, will be presenting his chamber work piece Serpihan Mimpi for flute and violin (Fragments of Dream) at the Asian Composers League festival's Young Composers Competition, and sees the opportunity as a "breakthrough" for Sabahan composers.

Aug 2018, Singapore
Adeline Wong

for piano

Adeline Wong's new work Herringbone for piano was premiered in Singapore on August 28 at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. The work is part of visiting London-based Malaysian pianist Foo Mei-Yi's concert at the conservatoire. 

2018, Kuala Lumpur
Johan Othman

The Killing of Meghnad

Johan is in the process of completing his second opera based on the libretto by William Radice. The basis of the work is an episode from the much loved Ramayana of the same name. It explores how the line between good and evil intentions can often blur.

Dec 2016, Kuala Lumpur
Adeline Wong

for low brass quintet

Wong's work scored for alto trombone, tenor trombone, bass trombone and 2 bass tubas is written as part of her new approach to transform ideas explored in previous works into new compositions. Nexus takes off from where her string quartet Interweaves leaves off.

November 2016, Kuala Lumpur
Ainolnaim Azizol

Seven Sisters
for guitar and electronics with eight speakers
Nathan Fischer (Guitar)

Nocturne I – Ulek
for soprano, sampled gender-slenthem, electronics with eight speakers.
Khairunnisa Diyana (Soprano)

Ainolnaim Azizol provides the electronics for his two works premiered on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 at Pentas 2, KLPac as part of the UiTM composers series concerts. The work  includes speakers and movements.

Oct 2016, Hanoi, Vietnam
Adeline Wong

for string quartet

Wong's new string quartet work is based on material from her epic hour-long Lengt/Longing for quartet, solo cello, electronics and multimedia, which was composed in collaboration with Norwegian artists and inspired by Norwegian art.

The work's material draws from Malaysian musical traditions such as the azan call to prayer, as well as other elements typical of Wong's diverse influences.

The quartet receives its world premiere at the ACL Festival in Hanoi in October.

Sep 2016, Lausanne, Switzerland
Ainolnaim Azizol

Nadi Bumi

for amplified solo alto recorder

Kuantan-based composer Ainolnaim Azizol, who won 2nd prize at the ACL Festival in Japan in 2014, has won 3rd prize at the New Recorder Music 2016 in Lausanne for his piece Nadi Bumi for amplified solo alto recorder, a work which explores various timbres of the ancient instrument in a modern composition.

Dec 2015, Kuala Lumpur
Ng Chong Lim

for piano

Chong's work originally for the 15 minute break project is based on the composer's feelings when he was high in the Himalayas shortly after the devastating earthquake of 2015. Chong was participating in aid efforts at the time, as part of his extensive charity work. Lasting 3 to 5 minutes, a shorter version of the piece was recorded for the film project.

Dec 2015, Kuala Lumpur
Jessica Cho


Sayyid Shafiee 
Constant Flame

Ainolnaim Azizol 
Titik titik

Johan Othman
Composition for Piano Nr 3

The four pieces are part of the 15 minutes of fame project for a 1 minute piano work to accompany a short film, based on the environmental theme Fire+Water.

11 Nov 2015, Manila
Ainolnaim Azizol

Meta VI
for tape and dancer

This electroacoustic work with accompanying dance movement was performed at the closing ceremony of the ACL Festival 2015 in the Philippines.

7 Nov 2015, Manila
Johan Othman

the dancing mouse

for SATB chorus

This six movement work for chorus is an expansion of Johan's song cycle based on the texts of William Radice was performed at the ACL Festival 2015 in the Philippines. The movements are: 1 - 3. Once I saw it only 4. The flaws on the floor 5. The air rushing in 6. The vase of sweet peas

7 Nov 2015, Manila
CH Loh

A Queen, A Mother

for soprano and piano

This pair of two songs is based on poems on the subject of women by Singapore literary prize winner Paul Tan. The songs are Queen Sunandakumariratana and Observing Mother, both published in his anthology in the late 1990s. The work was premiered at the ACL Festival 2015 in the Philippines. 

7 Nov 2015, Manila
Sayyid Shafiee

Jinsei Kouro

for C trumpet, bass clarinet and percussion

This work was Malaysia's entry for the Young Composers Competition at the ACL Festival 2015 in the Philippines, performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The 10 minute work is based on the Japanese dance 'butoh'.
29 Nov 2014, Yogjakarta
Ainolnaim Azizol

Nocturne I
for soprano, gender and slenthem

2 Nov 2014, Yokohama
Ainolnaim Azizol

Fragments I
for trumpet duo

The work was performed at the ACL Festival 2014 in Japan as the entry for the Young Composers Competition, for which the composer won 2nd prize.

Ng Chong Lim

for piano, cello and oboe

This work is a commission from an European trio who is planning to premiere the work at an upcoming concert.

23 - 24 Sep 2013, Singapore
Ainolnaim Azizol

Tirai III
for percussion trio

CH Loh
Nusantara Dances
for harp and symphonic band

Ainolnaim Azizol represented Malaysia in the Young Composers Competition at the Singapore ACL Festival held at the National University of Singapore. At the festival Jessica Cho's Hypnagogic II was also performed, while the Philharmonic Winds premiered of Loh's
revised version of his work for harp solo and large symphonic band 'Nusantara Dances' featuring a Singaporean harpist.

16 June 2013, Melbourne 
Valerie Ross
for piano, flute and tabla

Ross' work originally with oboe was performed at the University of Melbourne's cross cultural concert featuring music of Gareth Farr and Ravi Shankar.

2013, Birmingham  
Tazul TajuddinSebuah Pantun VI
for oboe and piano

Performed at the Frontier+Plus Festivasl, Birmingham Conservatoire in the UK.

2013, Kuala Lumpur
Tazul TajuddinSebuah Pantun V
for mezzo-soprano, clarinet, cello and piano

Performed by the Bridget Collective Ensemble of Sydney.

Ng Chong Lim's Shadows for piano and gamelan24 Nov 2012, Kuala Lumpur
Ng Chong Lim

for piano, gamelan, Malay percussion
for piano

Shadows, a collaborative work with shadow puppet will be premiered at the KL Convention Centre as part of the Chopin Competition 2012 while his Dragonfly is the compulsory test piece for competitors in the concerto section.


21 Feb 2014

Piano Gala 2014 at KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 16 March

Catch composer pianist Ng Chong Lim and a lineup of the country's best pianists in a marathon concert that includes the work of Tazul Tajuddin. Concert from 1pm - 6pm.


26 Jan 2014

Nature, nurture and mixed marriages

Ng Chong Lim talks about mixing western music with gamelan and the joy of writing for children.

Gamelan has long captivated the imagination of modern composers both abroad and local, and a number of great masters such as Benjamin Britten and Francois Poulenc and countless Americans, have fallen in love with its mesmerising sounds and created works with the hypnotic gong rhythms in mind.

But bringing actual gamelan players into an essentially Western music composition style has always posed problems for composers and performers alike. Both speak highly different musical languages, and many attempts at marrying the two have produced uninspiring, and sometimes contrived results.

At the Chopin Competition last November however one composer did manage to make magic with the unlikely pairing of piano and gamelan trio - Seremban born pianist-composer Ng Chong Lim’s Shadows for piano and gongs, bonang and gendang.

Admitting that his composition raised some eyebrows over the mixed marriage, Ng said he was particularly pleased with how the work turned out. “New music is still not easy for listeners. But for Shadows, I heard positive comments from musicians who attended the concert. For example a director from Germany told my friend he never liked the idea of fusion, but he was very impressed with the combination of sounds (for Shadows).

25 Jan 2014

Of superheroes, tempoyak and singing in the shower

Kelantan-born composer Ainolnaim Azizol finds a good long shower whets his imagination for contemporary classical music.

The exhilaration of water splashing on one’s face, the fragrance of soap rising with the steam, the utter freedom of being unclothed, the intimate privacy - there’s something about taking a shower that makes one just want to break out in song. In the case of young Kelantan born composer Ainolnaim Azizol, bathtime inspires not his big break on Akademi Fantasia, but something more sublime.

The 26-year-old took the express lane from gamelan to experimental western music in record time, and in May won a shared third prize in the Eight Bridges new music festival in Cologne, Germany. His work Badang!!!! for string quartet and electronics rubbed shoulders with his two co-winners Jesse Broekman (Holland) and Sophie Pope (UK), a decision arrived at because the jury wanted more from the electronics aspect of the compositions.

It is nevertheless an outstanding achievement for the Kuantan resident who shuttles to Shah Alam to teach music part time at UiTM. In an email interview, Ainolnaim lets in on the secrets of his craft.

“Most of my moments of inspiration come during taking my hot shower; I close my eyes, breathe slowly, hold myself, and I start to focus deeply and sharpen my hearing. Because of the good reverberations in the bathroom, I can hear sounds very well.

“And to feel the hot water running and dripping from my head all over my body, the details of my breath - the experience is almost meditative for me. I can spend 30 to 45 minutes in the shower and sometimes, I even get out in the middle of a shower just to notate and record down the ideas that pop into my mind,” he said.

Badang!!!! is the fourth in his series of works based on a superhero character from ancient Malay folklore that he used to watch as a kid, revealing the child in the composer. And playfully, his pieces are distinguished by the number of exclamation marks.

Visit the Malaysian composers digital library

The library is available to anyone interested, by appointment.

At present it has over 22 hours of Malaysian music, 35+ hours of Asian music and 150+ Malaysian, regional and western scores, and more.

Video highlights include Adeline Wong's Lengt for cello, string quartet and multimedia, Johan Othman's first opera Conference of the Birds at its Penang premiere, and Indonesian composers Sinta Wullur's gamelan opera The Liberation of Sita and Tony Prabowo's The King's Witch.

Email requests to info@malaysiancomposers.com


Malaysian premieres since 1995

Here is a roundup of premieres of Malaysian works at home and abroad. Since the mid-90s Malaysian works have been performed largely abroad...

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